Race Registration Fees, Costs, and Refunds

Welcome back to Elevation Trail with Tim Long and Gary David.  Today we chat about race registration fees, having to sign up way in advance of races, refund procedures, perceived value in races, and a bunch of other stuff.  Hope you enjoy the show.


12 thoughts on “Race Registration Fees, Costs, and Refunds

  1. I wanna run a race with Cedar’s Hummus Snack Packs.

    Seriously, I think about the $ per mile cost of races and unless it’s a sentimental one (such as the $175 marathon I’m running this weekend) I try and keep it at about $2/mile or less. If I pay more, then I’m paying for the experience of racing in a particular setting or because it includes some good swag in addition to a shirt.

    I still haven’t figured out the reason belt buckles are popular — no one I know wears them. I’d be much happier with a beer glass or a coffee mug. The one I have from Quad Rock 50 is my go-to mug and brings back great memories each time I use it.

  2. Trail race RDs have a more difficult race promotion job, if you ask me. For road races, many see the benefit of paying to run on roads and bridges that are full of cars on the other 364.5 days of the year. Sort of a “scarcity drives demand” argument. On the other hand, many of the courses for trail races are always open and it drives the “Where’s my entry fee going? ” snark that you mentioned, leading to “Why bother entering the race at all?”. Aid station support, course marking, comradarie, and the post-race event are some of the answers, of course, but it’s a tougher sell.

  3. I, for one, am definitely for transparency when it comes to race or even running club finances. I don’t care if a RD wants to make a profit on a race. Good for them! They deserve it. Since when did directing a race become this great altruistic pursuit? Running for charity irks me. People are willing to put tons of effort into logistics, training, money for gear, race entry, crew, and travel. I just wonder, why not simply write a check to the charity and run because you like it? Oh wait, I forget. We’re not supposed to admit that ultrarunning is a completely selfish endeavor. Sorry for the random rant.
    As far as the value of race entries go; I like to run point to point races as much as possible. I’d like to get all the point to point 100’s checked off someday. And thanks to Andrea for mentioning Fat Dog a couple episodes ago, I now have that one bouncing around in my head. Point to point runs are extremely hard to orchestrate logistically for only one person. I consider it a treat that once or a couple times a year I can go out and run a huge chunk of trail in one go. I enjoy looking at my map of the united states and being able to say, “I ran from here to here” in a couple different states. I can go out and run 10 to 20 mile loops on a trail any time I want. That’s pretty easy to orchestrate. But considering I’m antisocial and have very few close friend, all of which are tired of my running now, I can’t do a 100 mi point to point on my own. I need the help of a race organization for that. Which is why I’m really hoping the government gets their heads out of their asses soon. I’m signed up for Pinhoti 100 Nov 2nd, which is a point to point in the Talladega National Forest. I really haven’t trained for an unsupported 100 mi attempt. Besides I really like the aidstation pbj’s 🙂

    • From the charity standpoint, the value of having runners sign-up and come to a race is that you are creating a relationship with that person, engaging them in the organization and, thus, hopefully building some interest in volunteering, donating or otherwise taking action to support the organization’s mission. On the mechanics side, a race gives the charity contact info (e-mail/address/name) of the runners. That info can then be used to engage the person through other means. As a bonus, organizing a race allows a charity to build a community among its staff/supporters, which further builds affinity and the feeling of doing some good…and having some fun.

      It would be great if everyone simply jumped online and donated, or wrote one of those check things, but that doesn’t happen as much as we all would like.

  4. Great show, as usual. The vast majority of runners have no clue how incredibly much work race directing is, and even less clue about how many expenses are involved. They simply use the equation of Entry Fee X Number of Entrants and assume that figure goes to the charity or to the race/RD. (Permits, insurance, facilities, equipment, food, swag, port-o-potties, first aid personnel, timing, sound systems, course markings etc. etc. etc. just magically happen and don’t involve any planning, work, or cost!!)

    Also, I loved Gary’s JC Penny example and pointing out that the questioning of ‘where is my money going?’ is peculiarly unique to running events. I wonder how many of the people asking this question work for free and/or feel the need to justify how much of their salary they give to charity?

  5. I don’t think there is any obligation for a race to disclose their finances any more than any other business. If the race event is looking to be a charitable race, then they probably are going to market what they give as such so that everyone knows it. BTMR is one charitable race that comes to mind.

    I wish that folks would be capitalists with their racing dollars. If you want races that disclose such finances and where the RD does not make a profit – go race those. Personally I am glad I don’t have that as a restriction in my consideration of a race. I am pretty sure that many who grumped about Leadville are going to be the first to sign up. What is the real message there?

    I am not sure that the cost of a road race to a trail race is always a fair comparison. I’d expect that there could be a greater cost with road races given that there would probably have to be a cost for cops, and road closures. Maybe not a big deal at the Piggly Wiggly 5k around the school, but significant in a big city marathon.

    I thought you guys would jump on Grindstone being cancelled impacting a qualifier for HRock.

    • I’ve worked on the planning committee when there used to be a ‘Denver Marathon’ eons ago (though I wasn’t the RD who ran off with $500,000 of race funds….otherwise I’d be in Mexico, probably like him). A big reason why Denver RnR runs so many laps around Wash Park is because there are fewer police they have to hire that way. Denver law requires police (not just a volunteer) at every single intersection of a race and, well, overtime paid police are stupidly expensive to hire. The costs are astronomical to put on something like The Cherry Creek Sneak. Each city has different ordinances – Denver’s just happens to be pretty restrictive.

      Thanks for the podcasts!.

  6. I feel like there’s a link between the assumption that a portion of a race fee should be going to charity, and the use of volunteers in a for profit race. There’s a for profit trail race series in my neck of the woods, which is a small “mom and pop” operation. The RDs are making a living (i.e. paying a mortgage) from the proceeds of their races (which are well priced and well organized, for the record). But they use a lot of volunteers to run their show, most of whom are thanked with a bit of swag from the RDs sponsors. I sometimes look at these volunteers, who feel that they are making this huge contribution to the running community, and want to ask them if they realize that they are helping to pay someone else’s mortgage – basically for free. So what, in this type of situation is fair compensation for volunteering? Personally, I think a free race entry fee is a fair trade. (I’ve gotten into a few races on the cheap that way).

  7. Another great podcast. I always try to find the best races for the price and stay away from those that are getting uber-expensive. ( like the RnR road races) Here in the Pac NW we have quite a few bargains on the trails ( Bunker to Bonneville 50k is only $50.00. That’s a buck per click! ) The market should decide the price…. if a race is in demand, well, the price will go up. ( Boston Marathon, Western States, Leadville… ) in fact I am impressed that some of these races are so “cheap” given the demand. In some of these more popular events that have lotteries or sell out withing nanoseconds of opening registration online, I am surprised that they just don’t raise the price up to that tipping point where it starts to become a disincentive. In fact, I am impressed that RD’s keep the prices down in the affordable range. I imagine Boston could charge $500 – $1,000/entry and still sell out. I just vote with my feet, I think the Portland Marathon is something like $150 and I just can’t pony up that much scratch for 26.2 miles on the road. For a sport that really just requires a pair of shoes and some shorts so you don’t get arrested, people seem happy to dish out the big bucks for: shoes; tech shorts, socks, shirts; hats; gloves; sunglasses; vests; packs; heart rate monitors; coaching; gps watches; nutrition supplements; travel; race fees…..

  8. I agree with GZ…put your entry money where your mind is. I’ve paid for more expensive races, and also NOT paid for them. Last weekend I ran a 50k for $50, finished in the top 5 and got a mug, a medal, and a hoodie for my efforts…along with a cooler full of beer and an bottomless pot of chili to eat! I love that race!
    In other thoughts…the ‘new’ Montrail Ultra Cup has been announced. They’re going 3-deep in entries to WS, but there are only 5 races. TX, TX, CA, CA, and WI are the races. Being from WI, I’m excited to see Ice Age on the list, but I’m even more excited to see your thoughts on this new system.
    I’m all for the idea of a race allowing elites to run themselves in to the race. I love that idea. But it seems WS is limiting themselves a bit on that front.

  9. Two of the MUC events are on the same day! I loved the previous set up, where truly elite guys could run several different courses, and have options in different parts of the nation, and make their way in to WS. This seems like a downgrade.

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